Guitar detuning to D: what are my options?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Ralph124C41, Jul 24, 2017.

  1. Ralph124C41


    Sep 20, 2012
    Yesterday I got accepted into a start-up new country/classic rock band. The guitarist tuns down to D. So to quickly learn the songs needed for the tryout I just detuned my short-scale bass to D. It got me though enough to land the post but I really didn't like how my bass sounded, especially on that almost floppy D string.

    Now that I am accepted and can properly learn the songs how would you folks suggest I do to get the optimal sound for our gigs. I see my options are:

    1) Just do what I did as the short-scale, semi-hollow is my go-to bass.
    2) Use one of my regular-scale basses, also tuned to D. I understand the tension would be higher and so the "floppiness" may be less.
    3) Tune in E, and learn the songs and just adjust for the tuning differences. That's fine but I will lose some of those lower notes.
    4) Tune in E but use drop D tuning. It will be hard at first as I have only played out that way on a few songs. If I do this would, as in No. 2, it best to use my regular-scale basses. I don't have any long-scale basses.
    5) Finally get around to learning how to play my 5-string bass. I've had it for several years and I've never played out with it or done much with it, except to get it repaired. (It has active pickups and the thing was always "on" even with the cable out.

    Also I wonder if maybe just a string change may help. On my short scale I am using some La Bella Deep-Talking flats with an E strong of .105. I think they are sometimes called low tension strings but I don't know.

    On my others I have D'addario Chromes flats in medium gauge, Fender flats in medium gauge. I forget what I have on my 5-string but they are either Chromes or D'Addario halfrounds or whatever they are called. I also have an Ibanez Iceman with non-flats; I think they may be medium gauge Boomers but I don't remember.

    Sorry for being so wordy but I have never come across this problem before.
    Bigbri likes this.
  2. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    Use the 5-str?
    that should cover most songs you are likely to play.
  3. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    5 string bass - you'll likely need to resolve any setup issues if you downtune your existing basses two steps. Regardless if short scale or not. And IF you downtune, your string tension will be more floppy, not less.
    Sixgunn and s0c9 like this.
  4. sowilson


    Jul 5, 2013
    Go with a longer scale length bass, drop the tuning to D, and increase your string gauge. This would be easiest if you ever look at his hands for chords. Otherwise, use the 5 string.
  5. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    How often are you going to be using the two lower notes? I played in a modern country band for four years, and still sub for them. It was not often that I needed those two notes. I had a D-tuner on my E string, and just dropped that in when I needed those notes.

    Two things I like about this:

    1. It does not affect the intonation/tension of your bass.
    2. You can pop it down and back up in less than a second, so you can use it and pop back into standard tuning easily, even in the middle of a song.
  6. Ralph124C41


    Sep 20, 2012
    Thanks, folks.

    A few things: I had not thought about the D tuner but that would be a possibililty. Also this band is doing about 1/3 classic rock and we are doing some Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert, etc., with some songs that I call "country metal." In other words, I will be using those low notes a good deal I think.

    As for using the longer scale bass I already have thicker gauge strings on it (mediums, not light or a hybrid gauge.) I do want to try that. I don't want to buy a long-scale bass.

    As for the 5-string, I agree that is probably the most logical choice. And it is the one among my five that has active pickups. I just have been very timid about learning how to play it. I keep having nightmares about trying to play out and just doing everything one string out of kilter. I've used it at a few practices with other bands ... but have never played out with it live. I've just been playing a 4-stringer for a lot of years and I'm used to it.
  7. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I did "She's Country". The lick on the original is with a 5 string. No one notices that I am playing the part up an octave. Just a thought.
  8. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    You're way overthinking this.
    If you like how your usual bass sounds and feels when tuned to E just put the next thicker gauge of the same strings on it for D.
    Re-check the intonation and be done with it. Should take you 20 minutes, tops.
  9. Inky13


    Nov 13, 2016
    Buffalo NY
    I saw a bassist yesterday use a capo. He said he does it on a few songs to match up with the guitars half step drop.
    Never saw that before.
    Bassngtr and Killed_by_Death like this.
  10. Ralph124C41


    Sep 20, 2012
    Memories. I bought that 5-stringer a few years back when a modern country band formed and the leader wanted to do a lot of songs like that. However he wanted us to play every song Note. For. Note. I'm not kidding. He demanded I do "something" to get him the sounds he wanted. I walked out toward the end of the second rehearsal and the more hardy folks lasted a third rehearsal and that was it.
  11. Relsom

    Relsom Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2013
    The Old Dominion
    Get an ExFactor or learn the 5str.
    n1as likes this.
  12. Schooley_m

    Schooley_m Guest

    May 22, 2016
    I vote learn the 5. You stated that your new band (congrats on getting accepted!) Will be playing country, which more often than not involves walking bass lines. You'll definitely learn to love that low B, and you won't lose the comfort of having your EADG right above it! Also, learning to utilize new tools always makes you a better bassist in the end. Good luck!
    mesaplayer83 likes this.
  13. Ralph124C41


    Sep 20, 2012
    Yes, I think now would be a good time to learn how to play this thing. We are just starting up and I got my "homework" assignment for next practice, four more songs. I've been in a couple strictly classic country band and one that started out as an "outlaw country" (and morphed into something that played a little bit of everything ... badly) and I did a good deal of those simple walking lines. But at my audition out of about 10 songs not one really had a true walking line.

    I am already thinking what strings to put on it that would fit in with the needs of this band. Normally I like flats but I am going to need something with more "pop."
    Bassngtr likes this.
  14. scuzzy


    Feb 15, 2006
    Troy, MO
    .010 heavier gauge string on the E string, drop it, no floppy, all is well
  15. Ralph124C41


    Sep 20, 2012
    Another interesting idea

    Btw, something else I could start using is my old DigiTech BP-8 floor unit. It was one of the first of the big bass multieffects and had a street price of $300 or $400 when it came out. It has an AX-7 tube in the preamp section.

    Among its many settings is a pitch shifter but I've never used it and don't know how good or bad it is.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2017
  16. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    I've played that song many times - up an octave would not have the same sound or effect, IMO/IME...
  17. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    Absolutely this - if you're going to be playing modern country, you might just as well get comfortable with a 5 string... Take it from someone who put it off for awhile, and wishes he hadn't... I've been playing 4s and 5s for at least 12-13 years, and consider the time I spent before that "getting by" with drop tunings time wasted... Rip off that bandaid and start getting comfortable with a 5er - in the long run, you'll be glad you did...
    Bob Lo, bassbully, 5below and 3 others like this.
  18. pbass6811


    Nov 10, 2008
    Indy, IN
    I am not a fan of this "bro country" music that seems to be hip these days, but I've listened to enough of it know that there's a LOT of 5-strings being played in those bands.

    I'd tell you to grab that 5er you've already got and have at it! Since you're learning songs that are new to you, what better time to grab that unfamiliar, but oh-so-useful, 5-string and kill two birds with one B-string! Put the 4's in the cases and don't even touch them until you've learned all the new stuff on the 5.

    You might THINK no one can tell you're playing stuff an octave higher, but they can tell. The band can REALLY tell, even if they don't say anything, they can tell...;)
    Bassngtr and mesaplayer83 like this.
  19. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    I agree with *most* of what you said - but used a different approach when I started my 5 string adventure... Because I was playing in several bands, some of which would never need a 5er, I learned the songs that required a 5er on one, but played most of the "4 string songs" on one of those... I still use the same approach, and bring one of each to gigs that call for it - that way, I always have some sort of a backup(although I've never needed it)... This accomplished a couple things - I think it sped up my learning curve on the 5er for the songs I needed it for, and still allowed me a "breather" while on the 4s - since I find them easier to play, even to this day... That way, everything I play sounds like it's supposed to... I've averaged 100+ gigs per year for over a decade - and am on pace to play around 130 this year, so I must be doing something right...
    pbass6811 likes this.